The Verde Valley placed well in the annual Excellence Awards at the 36th Annual Arizona Governor’s Rural and Regional Economic Development Conference taking home two of the four top awards. The 2010 Conference was held Thursday and Friday at the High Country Conference Center at Northern Arizona University. Gov Brewer presented the awards.
Yavapai County won the award the top award for Innovation in Economic Development. District 3 Supervisor Chip Davis and Arizona State Parks Director Renee Bahl were presented with the 2010 Excellence in Economic Development.
Davis had supported the local funding to operate the State Parks in Camp Verde, Jerome, and Sedona. The money came from the District 3 parks improvement fund. The town of Camp Verde, the Jerome Historical Society and the town and the Benefactors for Red Rock State Park joined Davis in funding the continued operation of parks that would otherwise have been closed by the State Budget funding cutbacks.
When the chips are down, Arizonans truly have grit.
Case in point: The Jerome State Historic Park, with the Douglas Mansion as its crown jewel, will reopen in all its glory on Thursday, thanks to the determination of people who value its significance in Yavapai County’s history.
Two major forces came together to shut the park down in 2009: a crippled state budget that forced the Legislature to cut money for state parks operations and the mansion’s crumbling adobe walls and roof.
But, the “closed” sign that went up on the park’s gates didn’t sit well with the people who treasure the vestiges of Jerome’s colorful past – and for good reason.
Jerome, which rose atop Cleopatra Hill, was once one of Yavapai County’s boomtowns, rich with copper that lured prospectors, investors and promoters who sought wealth from its depths. The little burg quickly grew from a cluster of tents and mining shacks to a flourishing company town, burgeoning with Americans, Croatians, Irish, Spaniards, Italians and Chinese, a cosmopolitan mix, all with hope that Lady Luck would smile on them.
The Douglas Mansion is Jerome’s most prominent landmark. Visible from every direction in the hillside town, the formidable edifice presides over the state park. The luxurious landmark was once the home of mining magnate James Stuart Douglas, owner of the Little Daisy Mine, and featured a wine cellar, a billiard room, marble shower, steam heat and a central vacuum system. The museum resonates with history of life in Jerome during its heyday as a major Arizona mining town.
When Jerome’s mining industry went bust and the town faced certain destiny as a ghost town, folks got together and stood guard over its historic buildings. The mansion became a state park in 1965 and Jerome became a national historic landmark in 1976.
The same strong will for preservation prevailed again when the park closed in 2009. One of the first to step up was Yavapai County Supervisor Chip Davis who was successful in persuading his board colleagues to appropriate $30,000 of county park money for three years to benefit three state parks in his District 3.
The Douglas family donated $15,000 to help repair the building. The Arizona State Parks board allocated sufficient Heritage Fund grant money to rebuild the roof, fix the adobe walls, reinforce the chimneys and paint the exterior.
Voila. The grand dame shines again, all thanks to the tenacity of people who appreciate the significance and colorful contribution of Jerome and the Douglas Mansion to Yavapai County’s historical tapestry.
[Source: John Hutchinson, Verde Independent] – A powerhouse panel of political players combined with a standing room-only crowd of State Parks supporters and conservationists gathered to help strategize the long-term sustainable operation of the State Parks system Thursday. Supported by a documentary film, “Postcards from the Parks,” which tells the story of Arizona’s State Parks long-running financial crisis, the panel took five aspects of the issue and fielded questions.
Birgit Lowenstein, who helped organize the Benefactors of the Red Rocks, said, “we have taken State Parks for granted.” There were also representatives from Cottonwood, Jerome, and Yavapai County, plus a flood of volunteers of the Parks system. “We have created a financial band-aid, but it is not sustainable. We must find a long-term solution,” urged Lowenstein.”
Chief among the messages of the documentary film: “A closed park doesn’t make any money.” The closure of the parks would save the government $8 million, but cost $260 million in economic decline to the surrounding communities from the parks’ closure. The documentary film quotes Director Renee Bahl, “We don’t have to chose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. We can have both.” [to read the full article click here].